America’s 12 Wealthiest Presidents

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Source: National Archives / Getty Images

7. James Madison
> Term: 1809-1817 (4th president)
> Source of fortune: Inherited
> Peak net worth (inflation adjusted) $113.3 million

James Madison was born to wealthy parents in Orange County, Virginia. His parents ran a successful plantation and eventually built the famed Montpelier estate on their land. They owned over several thousand acres of land and dozens of slaves. Though wealthy at one point, Madison’s money dwindled towards the end of his life. His plantation was not successful, and his stepson burned through much of his money because of drinking and gambling problems.

 

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

6. Andrew Jackson
> Term: 1829-1837 (7th president)
> Source of fortune: Plantation
> Peak net worth (inflation adjusted) $132.6 million

Andrew Jackson was born poor but made money through his law practice. He also inherited a fortune from his wife Rachel. By 1804, Jackson owned nine slaves and was wealthy enough to build a mansion, the Hermitage. As the estate grew more successful, he continued to expand the land and purchase more slaves. Jackson owned close to 150 people at the time of his death.

Source: George C. Beresford / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

5. Theodore Roosevelt
> Term: 1901-1909 (26th president)
> Source of fortune: Inherited
> Peak net worth (inflation adjusted) $139.7 million

Theodore Roosevelt came from a wealthy and prominent family. His fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, appears earlier on this list. Teddy Roosevelt, though, was significantly wealthier, having inherited a large trust fund. Though he was born wealthy, Roosevelt never worked much to increase his wealth, as he spent almost his entire adult life in public service since being elected to the New York State Assembly at 23. He sunk much of his fortune into a ranch in the Dakota Territory.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

4. Thomas Jefferson
> Term: 1801-1809 (3rd president)
> Source of fortune: Inherited
> Peak net worth (inflation adjusted) $236.8 million

When he was a teen, Thomas Jefferson inherited 3,000 acres of land from his father near present-day Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson greatly expanded the land to 5,000 acres and built his architecturally advanced home Monticello. Though he was extremely wealthy for most of his life, he died in a great deal of debt, and his eldest daughter had to rely on charity for income.

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3. George Washington
> Term: 1789-1797 (1st president)
> Source of fortune: Inherited
> Peak net worth (inflation adjusted) $587.0 million

George Washington was America’s first president and also its wealthiest for more than a century. He inherited his extremely successful plantation, Mount Vernon, from his half-brother. Washington also made substantial money as a general and as president. Washington’s presidential salary in 1789 was 2% of the total U.S. budget. For context, 2% of 2017’s federal budget would be about $80 billion, though the United States obviously was not as wealthy back then.